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A Song of War: A Novel of Troy

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Troy: city of gold, gatekeeper of the east, haven of the god-born and the lucky, a city destined to last a thousand years. But the Fates have other plans—the Fates, and a woman named Helen. In the shadow of Troy's gates, all must be reborn in the greatest war of the ancient world: slaves and queens, heroes and cowards, seers and kings . . . and these are their stories.

A young princess and an embittered prince join forces to prevent a fatal elopement.

A tormented seeress challenges the gods themselves to save her city from the impending disaster.

A tragedy-haunted king battles private demons and envious rivals as the siege grinds on.

A captured slave girl seizes the reins of her future as two mighty heroes meet in an epic duel.

A grizzled archer and a desperate Amazon risk their lives to avenge their dead.

A trickster conceives the greatest trick of all.

A goddess' son battles to save the spirit of Troy even as the walls are breached in fire and blood.

Seven authors bring to life the epic tale of the Trojan War: its heroes, its villains, its survivors, its dead. Who will lie forgotten in the embers, and who will rise to shape the bloody dawn of a new age?

444 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 18, 2016

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About the author

Kate Quinn

38 books23.3k followers
--I use Goodreads to track and rate my current reading. Most of my reads are 4 stars, meaning I enjoyed it hugely and would absolutely recommend. 5 stars is blew-my-socks-off; reserved for rare reads. 3 stars is "enjoyed it, but something fell a bit short." I very rarely rate lower because I DNF books I'm not enjoying, and don't rate books I don't finish.--

Kate Quinn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network”, “The Huntress,” “The Rose Code,” and "The Diamond Eye." All have been translated into multiple languages. Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with three rescue dogs.

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Profile Image for Erin.
2,960 reviews485 followers
April 21, 2017
First it was "A Day of Fire" in 2014, followed by "A Year of Ravens" in 2015, now with " A Song of War" recently arriving on our shelves in October 2016, it must be universally accepted that these collections are becoming the shining stars of historical fiction. Not only is it great to see seven authors collaborate together and breathe life back into stories of long ago, but this book was downright enjoyable to read. Even before I read the author's notes at the end of the book, it was evident that "A Song of War" was a labor of love.

The task of this collection is to bring together a cast of characters( introduced in seven chapters) that witnessed the events leading up to and including the events of the Trojan war, and the devastating fall of the great city. Some characters, such as Hector, Aneas, Paris, Achilles, and of course, the notorious Helen are there to greet us again. But there are also characters that we(or maybe I alone) often overlook, such as, Hellenus, Cassandra, Andromache etc. There's action, romance, backstabbing, and loyalties put to the test. All in all, a little something for every historical fiction fan.

I'm just going to talk about each chapter in a few lines. SPOILERS (especially if you're not familiar with the story of Troy.)

The First Song:The Apple by Kate Quinn.

We think of heroes as loud crashing creatures, their reputations and the clatter of their weapons announcing their presence in every movement, but Hector approached everything from spear practice to common conversation with the same calm, reflective ease. His soul was warm, strong bronze to Paris' s flashy copper and my own humble tin. And over us all, our father with his core of granite.

Kate Quinn decides to get readers started with the important meeting of Paris and Helen of Sparta. The fatal encounter and its aftermath are re-told through the eyes of Paris and Hector's half-brother Hellenus, and Andromache, wife of Hector. I enjoyed how each character tackles the events. But I especially loved the way in which Hellenus was written. Such a great way to begin our story.

The Second Song : The Prophecy by Stephanie Thornton

They called me mad because I uttered truths no on wished to hear.

Stephanie Thornton decides to centers us back in Troy and chooses Hellenus ' twin, Cassandra who has a devastating tale to tell. I loved this Cassandra because I felt myself sway between "Girl, you're C-R-A--Z-Y and your Daddy needs to lock you up now" to "Would someone listen to this woman, she's trying to save your good for nothing asses." By the end of the tale, I felt that Cassandra was by far one of my favorite characters. So much sadness in her destiny!

The Third Song: The Sacrifice by Russell Whitfield.

Troy had to fall. And not because of Helen. Not because of honor, though they all pretended that was what it was about.Troy had to fall because they'd all lost too much to countenance anything else.

Told through the eyes of Agamemnon, Whitfield manages to present an experienced warrior that appears to be teetering on the brink of losing all his humanity. There's plenty of raw emotions that are displayed on the pages, but Agamemnon is not the type of man to wallow in self-pity. Nor was he able to win over my sympathies. Instead, I think I could say he was a man that was complicated and Whitfield digs deeply to bring all those layers to our attention. I was hard on this author in "A Year of Ravens ", but I genuinely re-shaped my thinking after this installment.

As an aside, I really enjoyed reading Russell Whitfield ' s author note because it had such a positive message about never giving up on writing. So refreshing to hear that.

The Fourth Song:The Duel by Christian Cameron

War is brutal, but it is far more brutal to women than men, who, mostly, can only die when their bodies are torn asunder rather than live on with their lives torn out like the entrails of an antelope.

And the award for best line(thought ) has to be from Briseis who relates one of the climaxes of the story-Hector and Achilles. The writing was fantabulous and oh the emotional rollercoaster ride. Definitely tied with Cassandra for one of my favorite chapters in the collection.

The Fifth Song by Libbie Hawker

Just when I thought that I couldn't feel anymore emotion in this book, Libbie Hawker gives me Penthesilea and Philoctetes. The former is a female warrior cousin of Helen, the latter, a man who loves Achilles. The characters were EPIC and their stories were so well put together. Both are the types of people, we want in our corner.

The Sixth Song: The Horse by Vicky Alvear Shecter
The shortest piece in the collection, this tale focuses on Diomedes of Argos and Odysseus. Before Ray Romano, I'm pretty sure there was a show called " Everybody Loves Odysseus" because in this collection there certainly was that vibe leading all the way through to the point where I just wasn't as interested in his perspective. Don't get me wrong, the events are in important and vital to the story, but I also can't lie. I finished this an hour ago and it might be the only chapter that isn't recalled in my memory. Down right shameful!

The Seventh Song: The Fall by SJA Turney
Absolutely important to finish story with Aeneas. I read The Aenid in university and it's a good place to finish the tale. Turney successfully manages to draw the tale as she relates the fates of many of our characters.

Highly recommended! Read it now!

I'm sure the authors are quite busy with their individual projects, but..like. .don't be shy to work together again!
Profile Image for Historical Fiction.
920 reviews590 followers
October 18, 2016
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

Trends in historic fiction are changing. I’ve read the genre for the better part of the last two decades and I’ve never seen a format grow in popularity the way anthologies and continuities have. I’ve no problem admitting that I've avoided both for as I typically find the stories unbalanced and the authors poorly matched, but books like A Day of Fire and A Year of Ravens have gone a long way in changing that opinion.

A Song of War is the third release from The H Team and I personally think it the strongest of thus far. Unlike the earlier books, the magnitude and scope of the Trojan war allowed each author to explore a pivotal event in the conflict and afforded each contributor a moment to shine in a way the earlier books hadn’t. The stories are intrinsically connected and follow the well-known course of events, but I liked how each author had their own platform and how of their individual voices were showcased within the larger chorus.

The Apple by Kate Quinn: Kate Quinn penned the first Song from the dual perspective of Hellenus and Andromache. I was vaguely familiar with the former, but had never given him much thought and was surprised by how quickly the quiet Trojan Prince grew on me. I found Quinn's characterization intensely relatable and I enjoyed how his personally played off her interpretations of his more recognizable siblings. Unlike her counterpart, Andromache was familiar to me and I greatly appreciated and enjoyed Quinn’s interpretation of the character. I found Andromache’s genuine emotion and personal challenges endearing and enjoyed seeing her come into her own and revel in a few moments of pure joy as the cloud of war gathered on her horizon.

Hector, Paris, Helen, and Odysseus made notable appearances in the first Song. Though they aren’t explored in significant detail, most of the narrators are introduced in Quinn’s submission and I appreciated how the effort facilitated transitions between submissions as I made my way through the book. I was also amused by how many secondary myths and stories were referenced in The Apple and appreciated how the piece set the stage for the conflict ahead.

* Best Moment in A Song of War – Kudos for a long overdue double bitch-slap. *

The Prophecy by Stephanie Thornton:Quinn is one of my favorite writers and I pitied the author tasked with following in her wake. Or I did, until I discovered who it was. I’m a big fan of Stephanie Thornton and actually laughed out loud as I knew her story, regardless of subject, would hold its own. Quinn’s signature humor is unrivaled in my mind, but Thornton’s command of language has left me speechless on more than one occasion and while I knew the tone would take a dramatic turn in Song two, I was confident that Cassandra’s story would be as layered and memorable as Hellenus and Andromache's had been.

I found the second Song deliciously dark and strangely addictive. Thornton’s exploration of Cassandra’s family situation and the demons that haunted her tickled my imagination and I was fascinated by how author chose to illustrate Cassandra’s madness. Cassandra is obviously damaged, but there is genuine fire in her and a selflessness that no other character in the narrative rivals. Atmospherically I felt this one of the strongest submissions and I greatly admired the intensity and intelligence of the action and dialogue Thornton presented.

* Best Surprise in A Song of War –Apollo’s Temple… Grotesque, but surprising and satisfying. *

The Sacrifice by Russell Whitfield:Russell Whitfield put himself on my radar when I read A Year of Ravens. I’ve actually reread that submission a couple of times since reading the book and could kick myself for not having acquired his solo publications, but long story short, I was excited to see he’d contributed to A Song of War.

That said, I was wholly unprepared for his take on Agamemnon. I’m not a fan of the character and my mind’s eye always flashes on Brian Cox when I read the name, but Whitfield turned that mental image upside down and challenged me to see his protagonist as a man burdened by guilt, alerted by grief, and embittered by years of war and responsibility. Agamemnon’s annoyance with Achilles is palpable, but it was the relationships he shares with Iphigenia and Chryseis that cut to my core. Whitfield’s Agamemnon is a man who gave everything to the campaign and lost his soul for his trouble. It’s a harsh story and brutal on a number of levels, but the presentation and the ideas it explores are a true testament to Whitfield’s creativity, vision, and talent.

* Best Character in A Song of War – Writing a hero is easy, reinventing a villain is an achievement. *

The Duel by Christian Cameron:Christian Cameron was the first of two contributors with which I was not previously familiar. I’d no idea what to expect from his writing, but I knew where we were in the story and I swore I’d rake him cross the coals if he didn’t do right by Hector. The outcome was a given, but the Trojan Prince is my favorite character and I didn’t need to see him slaughtered without putting up a decent fight. I’m a passionate reader and I make no apologies for it. I was going to love this submission or hate it, there was no middle ground.

I expected an intensely masculine story and was caught off guard when I realized Cameron had centered his story on Briseis, but I was floored by what happened next. Cameron’s submission was the first to show a different side of a previously established character and I was captivated by how Briseis’ opinions of Achilles contrasted Agamemnon’s. As a character Brises defied traditional gender roles and I loved how Cameron's choice of narrator allowed his to authentically illustrate the expanse of the battlefield. I formed a deep appreciation for the action itself, but Cameron capitalized on the enormity of the conflict and gave his readers a truly remarkable point of view.

* Best Battle Scene in A Song of War – Hand to hand combat between two ‘worthy’ opponents. *

The Bow by Libbie Hawker: I’d stumbled over Libbie Hawker’s work prior to reading A Song of War, but The Bow marks my first time reading it. As with Cameron's work I didn't know what to expect from the writing, but I knew where the story was going. I'd opinion about the material, but I was fairly open minded in regard to how it should play out which is why I was surprised to discover The Bow was the most personally challenging of the entire novel.

I didn’t care much for Penthesilea and struggled to engage in her arc. I liked the general idea, but as with the The Queen by Stephanie Dray, I felt this character could carry her own story and didn’t feel right about it being condensed to so short a piece. I thought Priam had some very interesting moments at this point in the story, but I was confused by Paris, Helen, Andromache, and Cassandra as Hawker’s interpretations weren’t entirely consistent with those of the authors who’d introduced them earlier in the novel.

That said, Philoctetes proved a breath of fresh air. Straight off the boat, he didn’t exude the war weary aura that had settled on much of the cast and I think his perspective allowed Hawker to explore the field in a way none of her peers could. I felt she took full advantage of the opportunity this afforded and applauded her for illustrating homosexual affection without effeminizing her protagonist in the process.

* Best Iconic Moment in A Song of War – Hawker popped the weasel! *

The Horse by Vicky Alvear Shecter:Vicky Alvear Shecter is not a new author for me, but as far as I’m concerned, The Horse left the rest of her work in the dust and I’m not just saying that because she had the guts to tackle my second favorite character. Odysseus is easily the most iconic voice in A Song of War and I honestly thought Shecter crazy for attempting to write him, but her interpretation blew me away and left me in absolute awe of her imagination and skill.

Troy is primed and ready to fall in these scenes. Alliances are shifting, some characters are breaking and others are showing their true colors. There’s a lot going on in this piece, but Shecter made it work while drawing the novel towards its climax in a way that complimented both the vision of her peers and the original source material.

* Best Submission in A Song of War – Finest adaptation of original story. *

The Fall by S.J.A. Turney:S.J.A. Turney was in the hot seat from the beginning. His submission anchors the narrative which is challenging enough, but Shecter’s story upped the ante threefold. Aeneas is an interesting character, but Shecter’s Odysseus was untouchable and I wondered if Turney could possibly close the novel in a way that didn’t fizzle in the wake of its predecessor.

It was a legitimate question in the moment, but the concern proved entirely unfounded. Turney’s adaptation of the material didn’t inspire my imagination the same way Shecter’s had, but the emotional aspects of The Fall were nothing short of brilliant. Turney’s prose is my favorite of all the author featured in A Song of War and beautifully emphasizes the intense and powerful themes of his submission. His descriptions are stark and often crushing, but there is a candle flame of hope in his story and I loved how his conclusion tied A Song of War to the entirety of The H Team’s existing catalogue.

* Best Tone in A Song of War – Amazing illustration of human emotion. *
Profile Image for Judith Starkston.
Author 10 books120 followers
November 22, 2016
If a diversity-bringing, often raunchy, always nuanced, new take on an old tale sounds like a good read to you, then pick up this “novel-in-parts.” Retelling the Trojan War, from its early causes to its tragic but still hope-infused end, is a big project, but this talented group of authors divided up the wealth. The result is outstanding and entirely enjoyable. Many conversations and debates among the authors brought about a consistent “take” on the characters and selection from the myriad ways the plot could have gone. (Yes, Troy burns, but other than that, this is one wide-open tradition as to what really happened.) I did enjoy the shifts of style as I moved from one “Song” to another, but that’s probably more my writer-self over thinking as I read. Quite possibly most readers wouldn’t notice those shifts, because this big group did a remarkable job of working to a well-filled-out consensus.

Reaching their view of each of these iconic characters—Agamemnon, Odysseus, Achilles, Helen, Briseis, etc.—must have involved some very fun conversations among the authors. Since I’ve written all these mythic/legendary folk myself, I particularly love meeting new understandings.

In this read, Agamemnon—always pretty villainous in any version—finds a useful shred of redemption in the reader’s eyes. This saving grace comes from the guilt he’s consumed by because he killed his daughter to speed along the war expedition. The depiction of that guilt is deliciously vivid, the moment of stabbing and Agamemnon’s visceral love for his daughter, so we understand why he’s sunk into drunken debauchery and cruel, cynical leadership. His wild sex with Chryseis and her willingness to use him for her own purposes, both sexual and political, also bring enriching layers of nuance. We don’t much care for Chryseis, but she is no wilting woman, even if she’s nominally a slave. Agamenon’s choices as a leader also make their own kind of sense in this version, which helps the reader find something to sympathize with even while we’re cringing at the king’s dark view of mankind.

Gender bending and blending also contribute in this version of the tradition. For any writer of the Trojan War, there’s the problem of how Briseis and Achilles get along so well. On the surface they ought to hate each other, but they don’t. In the Achilles’ legend, there’s a strand wherein his divine mother hides him disguised as a girl among other girls so the recruiters for the Trojan War won’t find him and bring about his early death. These authors extended that strand to encompass most of Achilles’childhood. So he’s definitely in touch with his feminine side, despite being a monster on the battlefield. When I wrote Briseis, I put a sword in her hand, so I have no trouble seeing her trained in her childhood by a father who kind of wanted a son. I can’t quite put my finger on what in the tradition pushes various of us toward this gender-role busting with Briseis, but it’s there. What this presentation of Achilles and Briseis does is provide a commonality and an innate understanding that doesn’t have to get fully articulated between Briseis and Achilles, but we don’t question her ability to get through to Achilles when no one else can. That’s a big hurdle to get over when writing Achilles and I like this way of accomplishing that essential leap.

I’ve talked with some of the authors in a different context about the “white” view of myth that most of us got imbued with growing up, so I know they are thinking about this issue in smart ways. In fact, unlike the lily-white version planted in our imaginations, the ancient Near East and larger Mediterranean, including the Greeks, was a mishmash of cultures and colors. These authors put that historical reality to good use. Race combined with the lower status of concubines explains the “outsider” status of Helenus (the Trojan royal son no one quite admires as much as the others) and Cassandra (the prophetic girl whom no one believes). Here they are twins born of a Nubian concubine rather than Queen Hecuba. Their dark skin sets them apart from the rest of the Trojans. Their status as children of the “other” woman makes Hecuba dislike them and she flavors the whole family’s view of these tightly-bound twins. It’s an adept blending of causes and reactions. Helenus takes on a major role in this telling, and his expanded part needs the depth and richness of his newly enhanced back-story.

This novel-in-parts is full of well-done moments, sentences to savor and juicy parts. I’ll quote one example that captures its tone and feel. Here are Briseis’s thoughts as she watches Hector and Achilles in that final confrontation, which, by the way, holds you to the page even though you are almost certainly aware of how it ends:
“Achilles turned. The Trojans were shouting from the wall like jackals, and the Achaeans shouted from behind us like hyenas, and in that moment, my contempt rose to choke me like a cloud of smoke when a man pisses on a fire. I was running with the lions. The other animals looked very low.”

By swooping into the obscene language (modernly put) and bawdy activities of soldiers, the authors gave this rendition an earthy power and a rawness that exists in the Homeric original. By building resonance into each character in ways that are fresh and much-needed reworkings of how the ancient world gets told, the authors gave this rendition a compelling depth that will make you savor the old tradition with some new spice on your tongue. I don’t think any modern writer expects their version of the Troy tradition to match the majesty and humanity of Homer—that would be inexcusable hubris—but then this tale doesn’t need a literature professor to help you along. I highly recommend this Song of War. It’s a grand adventure.
Profile Image for Marquise.
1,712 reviews404 followers
January 23, 2017
First book of the year to hit my Favourites shelf, and it's just the first week of January!

What could I possibly add that's not been said here, here, or here? I largely agree with what's there, with a few details I'd want to comment on.

I commend the originality and creativity of the seven writers from the H Team that penned this novel. Principally for choosing as narrator POVs characters that are usually never given a voice in the dozen-odd The Iliad retellings out there; I've already seen a few retellings from the perspective of Cassandra, a few more from the perspective of Helen of Sparta, and I've also chanced on some from the standpoint of Achilles and Odysseus, and even Agamemnon and Briseis aren't unrepresented in protagonist roles, but . . . I had never seen any that included the likes of Andromache, Hellenus, Philoctetes, Penthesilea, and, most surprising of all to me, Aeneas.

But it's not just the uniqueness of some of the POVs that is so good; there's also the choices in characterisation, even more surprising and refreshing than the election of narrators. I'll start by saying that the most impressive feat of characterisation is by far that one by Russell Whitfield with King Agamemnon, uncontested villain of Homeric proportions for both the Achaeans and the Trojans, who in this book is shown as a tormented and cynical man struggling with the guilt over a certain soul-crushing past choice and who seeks either death or redemption. He wasn't my favourite character, but definitely the one that had the most impact on me thanks to Whitfield's writing.

As for favourites, my picks would be Cassandra, Philoctetes and Odysseus. Stephanie Thornton comes just slightly behind Whitfield in best characterisation, with a superb mix of madness, humour, despair, and courage that make Cassandra the most tragic of all characters on any side of the Trojan War and my most favourite of them all in Song of War. Bronze medal for characterisation should go to Libbie Hawker for handling Philoctetes the way she did. Homer enthusiasts will readily know that he's different here, and that's hardly anything to raise an eyebrow at. On the contrary! Hawker also had the intimidating task of writing the death of über-hero Achilles (and that bastard, Paris), a task that's quite easy to bungle. I'm rather particular about The Iliad, it being my favourite Classical myth, so I'm inclined to be unforgiving with retellings of its iconic scenes . . . and Hawker graduated with honours! The Achilles' heel scene, that in the original legend goes down as a portent of the gods that directed Paris' arrow exactly to the one single vulnerable inch of flesh in all of the demigod hero's anatomy, is here dealt in a very down-to-earth, very realistic manner. I do not want to spoil it for anyone, so I'll only say it's very, very credible, nothing supernatural or magical or godly about it, just how it'd have happened in a real showdown. For me, Libbie Hawker has now surpassed my admired Colleen McCullough's depiction of the death of Achilles in Song of Troy.

And what about wily Odysseus? He is mostly as he would be in The Odyssey, if a touch more jaded and embittered by the long war than Homer would depict him. Vicky Alvear Shecter, like the above writer, infused the wooden horse legend with a hefty dose of realism: the manner in which Odysseus stumbles upon the idea for building the Trojan horse is so credible and so devoid of divine meddling, er, assistance as happens in the original. By now, it must be obvious how much I appreciate the realism of this retelling, that feels more like historical fiction than mythology, with a barely there varnishing of fantastical elements. If you took away details such as Cassandra's visions of the future and Achilles' unnerving mother, for example, it'd be plain historical fiction and no more.

I'd say there's no POV character that's not handled well in this novel, just that some are better written than others, and that some are less likable/harder to empathise with because of personality or mindset. I suspect Penthesilea and Aeneas will be the names readers will throw into that bag. Personally, I wouldn't call them sympathetic exactly, but I did like their chapters, the former for the humanising of Achilles that results from her duel with him and the latter because it provides a window into the sack of Troy from the losers' eyeview, which is nothing heroic or worthy of praiseful songs by blind bards but horrific (damn you, Neoptolemus!) and brutal (and damn you too, Ajax!).

While the choices in plot pleased me globally, there were some authorial choices in characterisation that caught me unprepared. Neoptolemus as he's shown to be here was no surprise in principle, the Classical sources do give reasons that'd allow for a dark character, but I'd not expected him to be depicted as an utter monster that gloats over and basks in others' pain. He sure lacks his father's honour! Another surprise was Briseis, the loving and very feminine princess that becomes Achilles' bride and here is . . . well, you'll have to read to know. All I'll say it's the biggest character twist in the novel, up there with Agamemnon, and the only one I'm a bit doubtful about. And finally, there's Achilles. Not a surprising characterisation per se either, but that I'd not expected he'd be so human, so un-godlike yet still larger-than-life as a god. As damnably prideful and broody as in the ancient sources, yet honourable and more sensitive than one would think him. He and Odysseus were always my favourites from The Iliad. The Brawn and the Brain, the Greek Pinky and the Brain . . . What can I say? I've funny choices sometimes, and since my first read of Homer back in childhood I have never been a fan of universally beloved Hector, the Good Guy poster child of the Trojan War.

For a novel written by seven authors, each with a distinctive storytelling style and language quirks, this is remarkably coherent. In fact, it'd be easily mistaken for a novel authored by one single person with a knack for getting into the minds of several characters so well as to give each a clearly unique voice. Could. Because there's a pair of details that do get in the way and that I've not seen anyone remark on, so I might as well do it, just in case any of the writers happens to read this and may take a note for next time they write another book like this (which I hope they do!).

1. Chapter headings. There shouldn't be any author name in each of the seven "songs," like it's been done (each chapter has a title followed by the author's name and a quote). Instead, there should be just the chapter's number, its title and the quote, with no author mentioned. Why? Because although it's not big enough a detail to break immersion, it does work as a speed-breaker that comes close to that, reminding the reader that this is a collection of chapters with a common theme that make for a single novel. The authors are fully credited on the cover, they're listed in the Index/Table of Contents, and each of them have writen an Author's Note included in the end, so why plaster their names all over each chapter heading? It's not helping with the feel of "many quills, one tale" that's the goal the seven authors seem to have aimed for, otherwise they'd not have worked so hard to make this such a well-interwoven tale and would've gone for just a collection of loose short stories/novelettes with a common setting.

2. First Person vs Third Person Point of View. Of the seven "songs," five are written in First Person POV . . . but two are written in Third Person Limited POV. I don't know if that's accidental, or deliberate, or whether the authors that chose the second type aren't good at the first type or just don't like it. Whatever the reason, the consequence is that, unlike with the chapter headings that are merely a bump in the road, this can actually throw you out of immersion and make it too obvious that this was supposed to feel like one single seamless novel. Those two chapters make the seams conspicuous, breaking immersion and making it look unpolished. If that had been smoothed out, that is: if all authors had written in the same POV type regardless of which it were, I'd not even have noticed the switching between authors from one chapter to the next and it'd have been even more impressive a literary feat as well as feat of harmonious teamwork.

I realise the second point isn't possible to fix anymore now that the book is out and published, because that'd require rewriting (and honestly, most readers might not even notice, or care. I certainly don't care much and am merely pointing out the obvious), but the first point could definitely be fixed in later editions.

Heh, I suppose I did have something to tell after all. Do get your hands on this book if you like Classical Antiquity legends or all things Greece, you'll enjoy it!
Profile Image for Deborah Pickstone.
852 reviews90 followers
December 27, 2016
And I read all Kate Quinn's books again and went back to the library and........finally! A Song of War!

I read some of the classics and later Colleen McCullough's The Song of Troy - last year, I think - which was my favourite so far - but this is better!

So, seven chapters - and Kate Quinn opens. The main characters are given form here and we are told, through the wedding, that there are a lot of different peoples with lots of different ways of being and quite a lot of prejudice too....in fact, people are people everywhere be they here and now or back in the Trojan wars. That's historical novels, really - the people are the same but the culture is different. If the writer writes that they are different to now - I tend to lose interest! And Kate Quinn is fabulous, as always, AND she got to be the coordinator of the collective experience. I don't generally like collective books but this one (all of the three) I do because of the harmony of the whole; I can thank her for that, then, too. She also gets to introduce us to Paris and Helen - I can believe them to be selfish, though we are also aware that Helen is as she is because of the position of women (at least in Sparta) and she hoped to have a better life by moving to Troy. Hellenus and Andromache were both pleasing characters.

Stephanie Thornton wrote of Cassandra - and how pleased I was that she and Hellenus were bi-racial; it made them both 'other'. I like Stephanie Thornton and I liked this song; Cassandra was prophetic, mad AND misunderstood - and a woman.

Russell Whitfield - top marks for giving the universal bad guy a rehabilitation! Agamemnon is burdened by grief and guilt, the brother of Menelaus so feels he must support him and when he finally has (a rather unlovely) a woman he has to give her up. It's quite something when a strong character, available through all the classics, suddenly gets a new perspective - and, you know, that sounds like a true one as no one is completely good or bad. Maybe the classics are archetypes - but in this collection, they are all too human!

Christian Cameron - I was absolutely riveted by this one! Not only was the action compelling but I loved Cameron's 'voice', there was an almost poetic articulation yet he was spare of tone; I loved this Song. Yet....how could anyone not love Hector?

Libbie Hawker - I was particularly happy about Philoctetes being a gay man but not in the mould of gay men (which always makes me annoyed) but older, kind of repressed but all the more passionate about his beloved. So, thank you, Libbie Hawker, for writing that! I had to go back twice to read this again. And Penthislea. The Amazon warrior who is eating her heart out inside; not a very typical Amazon but a very true human!

Vicky Alvear Shecter - true to the the myth, she did it flawlessly but with extra added, as Odysseus was bitterly humorous; I think she was quite amazing, in fact I think this was her best yet.

And SJA Turney (who I will point out is a MAN as some of the reviewers seemed to think he's a woman - tut!) writes brilliantly. He has got better and better over the years and now - as he put it himself - Aeneas wrote himself! Well, that tells us how he has become a gifted writer :) Like Cameron, he writes without curlicues and embellishment - I love that! - but the emotional aspects are there. They are both quite different in voices but both have a certain poetry.

So, that's the A Song of War: A Novel of Troy. I also loved how each author wrote of their own Song and how it was for them. I missed Christian Cameron on that one; I like Author's Notes and this was similar.

Now, I am wondering what they will do next!
Profile Image for Reeda Booke.
410 reviews21 followers
November 18, 2016
A fantastic retelling of The Illiad by 8 very talented and wonderful authors in one anthology! It's amazing how that each tell the story and weave it together so seamlessly into one cohesive story. Kudos for a great read!
I hope they keep writing them!
Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Leeanna.
538 reviews92 followers
October 20, 2016
This review originally appeared on my blog, Leeanna.me.


When I heard about A SONG OF WAR, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. This is my third “novel-in-parts” by the wonderful H Team, and once again, they knocked it out of the park. And considering I’ve never been much interested in the Trojan War, that’s a real feat.

Short stories usually aren’t my thing, but a book like this is the exception. There are seven authors in A SONG OF WAR, each writing about important characters and events. Each of those authors has what I’d consider a speciality in historical fiction, which allows them to really dive into their chosen characters. Such as Stephanie Thornton, who does well with history’s forgotten women -- she wrote about Cassandra, the mad seer who was fated to foresee the fall of Troy but have no one believe her prophecies. Or Russell Whitfield, who is great with men and warfare -- he made Agamemnon a sympathetic character.

The book spans the entire Trojan War, skipping the boring middle siege to focus on the important beginning and end. After reading A SONG OF WAR, I understood the Trojan War better than I ever had before, thanks to the wide variety of viewpoints. Sure, there are different authors and they have their own styles, but I never felt knocked out of the narrative because the book is quite seamless. I could tell the authors worked together and had done plenty of research. I also found the Notes at the end fascinating, because I enjoy learning the authors’ motivations and why they made the choices they did.

I highly recommend A SONG OF WAR if you have any interest in the fall of Troy, and even if you don’t, it’s a great read for historical fiction fans.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the authors for review consideration; this did not influence my review in any way.

See more of my reviews:
Profile Image for Crystal Starr Light.
1,350 reviews820 followers
March 5, 2019
Bullet Review:

Don’t faint - I finally finished this!

I think a lot of what slowed me to a halt on this was the very slow Briseis story, which I had to skip in order to make any progress. As with most short story collections, the short stories range from fantastic (Quinn/Whitfield) to mediocre/boring (Cameron).

However, I got to the end and hooray! Cannot wait to try to actually read more!
Profile Image for Sonja Arlow.
1,080 reviews7 followers
February 23, 2017
3 1/2 stars

I think everyone knows the story of Troy and although I watched the movie (only so I could gawk at Brad Pitt) I wanted to settle my curiosity and understand the full fable.

Like with A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, this is collaborative fiction between 7 writers, all tackling different characters in this well-known historic fantasy. Some stories worked a little better than others.

The start of the story (written by Kate Quinn) really set the tone, with the introduction of all the major players. The story is told from the viewpoint of Hector (who I loved) and his wife (who I loved even more) and of course Helen. I really enjoyed the way she was portrayed throughout this story. Not as a victim but rather a cold calculated schemer, manipulating people for her own means.

The second installment (written by Stephanie Thornton) had a much darker tone, focusing on Cassandra, one of the daughter of Priam, who is cursed with the gift of second sight. Cassandra was a fascinating character and this section just flew by.

And then we are introduced to Agamemnon and the dynamics within the Achaean camps outside Troy (written by Russell Whitfield). This is a hard-seasoned soldier, not necessarily a likable man, who needs to be brutal not only to keep his position but keep people like Achilles in check. He was not the easiest character to like but I think the author did a great job.

The duel between Achilles and Hector (written by Christian Cameron) was, although necessary of course, quite exhausting to read. I did however really enjoy the character of Briseis, Achilles’s slave and lover.

I think at this point I was suffering a but from war fatigue because the next story (written by Libbie Hawker) dealing with the inevitable death of Achilles and Paris made my interest in the story waver. I obviously wanted to get to the end and read about the Trojan horse but it was a lot harder going.

One character I knew very little about was Odysseus so his story (written by Vicky Alvear) brought back my desire to finish the story. He was finally the hero that could think outside the box and imagined the concept of the Trojan Horse.

And the final story (written by S.J.A.Turney) focused on Aeneas, cousin to the Trojan Princes. To be honest I struggled to find a connection with Aeneas and ultimately the story ended a bit flat for me.

So although 3 of the stories didn't blow my hair back I still think this is worth reading.
Profile Image for Amalia Carosella.
Author 9 books319 followers
February 4, 2017
The scope of this novel is tremendous -- you could write a book, easily, out of any one of the characters chosen as narrator for these songs, and yet, the tightly focused novellas all work as they are, independent and together, delivering us across ten years of war and struggle from the kidnapping of Helen by Paris to the sack of Troy and the sailing off into the sunset of Aeneas.

It should go without saying, really, but if you're looking for a happy ending for anyone, this is not the book for you. HOWEVER. If you're looking for a new take on the many "heroes" of The Iliad, including a particularly mind-blowingly-impressive sympathetic look into the world of Agamemnon; a gut-wrenching heart-tugging interpretation of Hellenus, Hector, and Andromache; and a surprisingly touching bromance of unrequited love, quiet moments, and tenderness between Achilles and the often overlooked Philoctetes, my friends, A SONG OF WAR will not disappoint.

(But seriously, that Agamemnon song -- so worth it just for that, even if nothing else sounds awesome to you.)

**I was sent an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews).
1,695 reviews875 followers
October 9, 2016
I am so so excited for this! I love each book this ongoing series of interlocking anthologies from these rotating historical fiction authors authors. I really appreciate that opposing sides of view are provided from for each side of the infamous and famous events recreated and retold. First with Pompeii and A Day of Fire and then jumping a few centuries in time to tackle Boudicca's legend with A Year of Ravens), I have yet to be disappointed.. I'm really happy that they picked Troy for this newest book, as well. (Can I call this A Decade of War in my head for matching purposes? Battle maybe? I mean... it fits with the Troy subject! ;p)

Other anthology novels I would love to read in this style:
•Fall of Constantinople
•The Year of Five Emperors

RTC as part of the blog tour in October!
Profile Image for Erin Al-Mehairi.
Author 13 books75 followers
November 1, 2016
One of my favorite historical and mythical places to read, watch, and learn about is Troy. Of course, I was quite pleased when the H Team collection of stellar historical authors, several of whom are already some of my favorite authors, decided to make it their focus for their next continuity anthology called A Song of War: A Novel of Troy! It's quite a large book so I was happy I had the time to read and savor each section over a few months. Different than many anthologies, except the other great ones by the H Team, it takes a time period and place with each author identifying with a person and featuring them with similar supporting characters. The book as a whole then intertwines all the stories, even with the authors showcasing snippets of a previous author's character in the interactions with their character, and creates a whole over arching view, which in this collection spans over a decade. To me, it's clever and such an interesting way to read a story.

We generally know about the Trojan War and don't always realize the entire story of the Iliad's cast of characters. This book allowed them to be expanded on and shone in various ways that me, and maybe other readers, might not have ever thought of before.

I really enjoyed how when Kate Quinn started off the series, she was able to set it up to show us that many different types of cultures and people lived in Troy and interacted together. She showed us that there was some prejudice toward people based on skin color and I felt it was a good mirror for the current issues that lie today in the U.S., in which some don't want to accept our melting pot.She also was able to write Helen of Troy as the strong willed, if not a little jilted, woman I had come to love her for myself, gaining some momentum in her section as far as character development by juxtaposing Helen's personality and relationship situation against that of Andromache, who is clever and witty. I did see Helen as somewhat more settled or resigned in her situation with her husband, King Menelaus, than I normally thought her to be, but the various discussions and thoughts between the other characters in each section of her portion were intriguing and made me very interested to read the rest of the stories. She has, as always, a knack for dialogue and humor.

Stephanie Thornton's second song, or story, featured Cassandra, the biracial twin of Hellenus. Her careful display of her, and her frustrations, are touching and poignant. Exploring the dark regions of her character's mind invoked me into the inner realm of Troy, the part that lies in the mind of those experiencing such turmoil and confusion. Her steady pace and intuitive prose was like a drum beat of war, pacing the tension as the book started to deeply unfold. Going back to what I was saying about Kate and how she introduced the concept that people in Troy where of all mingling races, Stephanie extends that as well into her story, allowing these two stories to complement each other so very well and get the book off to an outstanding start in its first 100 pages. Of course Stephanie is a beautiful writer, amazingly descriptive and she really sets the scenes before our eyes.

Each of the authors brought a specific need and voice to the body of work. Russell Whitfield is an author I didn't really know previously, but he's certainly caught my eye. His writing style is somewhat different, maybe it's the sentence structure, but it created a flow for me while I read and a desire to know, to understand, and to empathize with his characters. It's not easy being the author who has to write about a character (Agamemnon) that generally most people don't like, that history has showcased as being a harsh commander of war - King of Argos. But Russell writes with compassion, with feeling, and with a depth and talent. He gives to us the story of a man who really hasn't been able to tell his story yet, and he accomplished it very well.

Christian Cameron is another author I had heard of, but never read. He writes in a more old-fashioned style, which is quite fine, it's just that he gets to his point with precision and doesn't embellish. I tend to like a little more breathing room. He wrote the story of a female character, Briseis, which is actually one of my personal favorite characters. She was a slave to Agamenmon. I am not sure, since I haven't read him previously, if he would normally write a woman with a more matter-of-fact personality, or this is just what he planned for Briseis, but either way, he gave her a different persona than what I had in my head previously. It took a minute to get used to it, but I can value his style and perceptions. He is excellent in terms of action writing and a great style for war and military action. He presented Achilles rather well I'd say. I would have preferred he'd softened Briseis and his dialogue to a degree, but his story fit in nicely with all the rest and helped to complete the package and fit more pieces of the puzzle together.

Libbie Hawker is one of those authors that I know of her work but have not had the time yet to read so I didn't know what to expect. Her story focused mainly on Philoctetes, who comes to Troy without the war baggage of the rest of the stories. He pines for Achilles and feels this loss, just as he also carried the weight of the word hero on his shoulders. He possesses Heracles bow, and with it, to many, power. It was wonderful to see Libbie write this tale of a gay man with such emotion and delicacy, letting us see his inner strength of mind and purpose. I love the interaction between Achilles and Philoctetes once they meet up again - their friendship and understanding was touching. Achilles war fatigue was evident and the hope that Philoctetes reverberated, his intent to save him after receiving an omen, is striking. She seemed to hone home about them being ordinary men, which I suppose we could think historically they were, but as a person who really loves the mythology of it all, it did set me back a bit. However, I suppose that is what makes you think. The final battles between characters at the end of her story - I don't want to give any spoilers - were tragic and swift and left me somewhat in tears. I enjoyed her story overall and we still get wonderful glimpses and nuggets of the other characters from throughout the book.

Vicky Alvear Shecter writes the second to the last story of Odysseus. It's a short piece but one that's needed as she shows a war torn Troy, a place in need of this war to end. Her ingenuity in her interpretation and re-telling of the legend of the Trojan Horse was astoundingly good and I would have never seen it coming. I'm already a huge fan of Vicky and as always her characterization is excellent and her writing good, but it's her idea and take on this old myth that left me speechless. She's stellar in the way that she can tell a story in less pages and have as much or more impact as the others. I loved how she tied up quickly lots of scenes within the other stories, as well as tightened the overall arc, before letting the reader head into the final story by SJA Turney.

SJA is another writer again that I've not read (even though I should as he writes Roman novels), but to be given the task of writing the last story in the book, I knew he had to be trusted enough to be able to pull it all together in a way that would give the book a lasting legacy. Now, after reading his story of Aeneas, I can see why he had to write this last song or story. In a quick lesson, Aeneas was a character of Homer (related to some of the other characters in A Song of War) that migrates from there to Italy and ties in as an ancestor of Rome by the time Virgil takes over for Homer. SJA writes this last story so phenomenally well; with grace and emotion, with fortitude to write something so dire and sad, and with eloquence and emotion. I am a new fan of SJA and will be seeking out his other works. I really loved his writing style. In wrapping up A Song of War, he really did an amazing job of pulling all the strings together and leaving us with closure and hope.
Overall, this epic story of Troy was a huge undertaking by all these authors that surpassed my expectations. I could tell not only did they each write a story, but they worked with each other on all the stories to make sure characters lined up as far as plot and personality, calling on each other's strengths, and really made it all look rather seamless so that it appeared almost if they wrote a novel together instead of separate stories.

A Song of War is one of the best books you'll ever find to read surrounding Troy and if you love Homer's Iliad, you'll certainly want to take a closer look at all the characters you love and hate by reading this collection. Love, greed, war, myth, humanity, passion, sacrifice, jealously, intrigue - A Song of War has it all. College English and history classes won't be teaching only the Iliad anymore, they'll be reaching for A Song a War to accompany it. It was a pleasure to read and is the perfect book for any history or myth lover and well worth investing in the keepsake. It's one to be read more than once to really appreciate its depth.

* I was given a copy of this book in exchange for honest review *
Profile Image for Stephanie (Bookfever).
984 reviews113 followers
September 8, 2017
The Apple by Kate Quinn:

The First story of this anthology started of really strong. I thought it was an amazing story but this came as hardly a surprise since it was written by Kate Quinn, one of my top favorite historical fiction authors. It featured Hellenus and Andromache. I wasn't very familiar with Hellenus but I've of course read more about Andromache. However, I did end up absolutely loving Hellenus. I loved his voice in this story. I also enjoyed reading about Andromache and her husband Hector, who is the crown prince and future king of Troy. As always I thought that Kate Quinn's writing was amazing. It really was a great start!

The Prophecy by Stephanie Thornton:

I was doubtful that I would enjoy the second story as much as Kate Quinn's but I thought it was equally amazing. This time Cassandra wa in the lead, the seer who's visions and warnings no one ever believes. The story was also pretty dark, in my opinion, but it was written so very well. I'm also pretty sure that I couldn't hate Paris and Helen more than I did at this point in the story. As troubled as she was, I did like Cassandra a lot. But I also pitied her because of the bad way her family, except for her twin brother Hellenus, treated her. But overall it was another really great story.

The Sacrifice by Russell Whitfield:

I remember really liking Russell Whitfield's story in A Year of Ravens so I was excited to read this one as well. I ended up loving this story about Agamemnon It actually changed my whole perspective about his character. The start of the story was very sad but also very strong. It was a stunning and exceptional addition to the book.

The Duel by Christian Cameron:

This author was unfamliar to me and at first I had a little of a hard time getting into the writing style for some reason but ended up loving the story soon enough. I don't know what I expected but I really hadn't expected the author to write about Briseis. She was one amazing and unconventional character. This was one powerful story! Achilles played a big part in it a well. Before this story I wasn't sure what to think of his character. He was somewhat an enigma to me but I really liked the author's take on him as well as his relationship with Briseis. This was without a doubt the best story in this book and easily my favorite.

The Bow by Libbie Hawker:

In Libbie Hawker's story I hadn't expected the points of view from Pentesilea and Philoctetes at all. Penthesileo's character I didn't care much for but I really liked Philoctetes because he was reallt different from all the other characters I've come across so far. I really liked his voice and how he hadn't really been part of the war due to a snake bite. I also liked the parts where Priam and Achilled came into as well.

The Horse by Vicky Alvear Shecter:

I was really looking forward to this Vicky's Alvear Shecter's story. Not only is she one of my favorite authors but this story of hers was really excellent. It was quite shorter than some of the previous stories but this definitely didn't mean it was any less enjoyable. In this story Odysseus was the main characters. He was one of my favorite characters so I was really glad to see him in the lead and the author's take on him was really great, too. This story was simply a brilliant piece of writing.

The Fall by S.J.A. Turney:

I was really looking forward to this story and the conclusion of this epic book. I had high expectations because I've really enjoyed S.J.A. Turney' work before. I've only read short stories by him so it's my goal to finally read a full book of his soon. But anyway, this story was a really great one and I loved the ending of the book as well. I really liked how the author wrote the main character of this story, Aeneas who also ended up as one of my favorite characters in general. I really enjoyed it!

Overall thoughts:
I enjoyed all of the stories and all the author involved are so very talented. The book was simply epic and a real joy to read. As much as I enjoyed A Day of Fire and A Year of Ravens, I thought that a A Song of War: A Novel of Troy was even better. It was a true masterpiece!
Profile Image for Margaret.
1,188 reviews49 followers
October 15, 2016
Seven different authors penned this anthology, some of them am familiar with and others are new to me. This is only my second experience reading an anthology and I still wonder what the best approach is to writing up a review. A Song of War is divided into 7 Songs, do I go through each one individual making this review longer than usual or would a general overview (spoiler free) do this book justice? While I am fascinated with the time period, I've really only read about Paris and Helen. With A Song of War it's like getting the other side of the story from different points of view.

Kate Quinn starts this book off with the first Song, called The Apple and clearly demonstrated why she is a favorite of mine. She knows how to grab the reader right from the beginning, she creates the characters of Hector, Andromache, Hellenus, Paris and Helen with unique personalities and I loved what transpired especially with Paris and Priam, it was original and totally plausible, not what I was expecting at all and it worked; I love when an author does that.

Stephanie Thornton continues with The Prophecy and the story of Cassandra, someone I have never heard of before. Thornton likes to take unknown women of history and breathe life into their story, which is exactly what she has done here. I loved this chapter and I loved Cassandra, the misunderstood, frustrated daughter of Priam who can foresee 'truths no one wishes to hear'.

Russell Whitfield takes on Agamemnon with The Sacrifice and I will admit to actually knowing nothing about him except that he is the brother of Menelaus. This Song opens with an emotional scene totally drawing my feelings for him in the opposite directions of what I anticipated. I saw what made him tick, Whitfield made be care and empathize about him.

Christian Cameron is a new author to me and he continues with The Duel. Briseis, I love what I have read about her, a tragic past that has made her a slave in this war. This is one of the bigger Songs and one of my favorites. She had guts and determination I was anxious to read her story, I think I read it in one sitting, I couldn't help myself, she just drew me right in.

Libbie Hawker is a new author to me, her Song, The Bow has me looking for her other works.
Penthesilea, a Cimmerian, not really part of the Trojan Wars, is again another character I am unfamiliar with as was Philoctetes. I loved seeing the War unfold through the eyes of other, which was the case here.

"He that fights fares no better than he that does not; coward and hero are held in equal honor, and death deals like measure to him who works and him who is idle."

Vicky Alvear Shecter tackles the giant Odysseus in The Horse, what a job that was. She did it flawlessly, it was a pleasure to read.

SJA Turney wrote with some of the same authors here as in A Year of Ravens, so I was looking forward to her Song, she doesn't disappoint. This was the perfect conclusion to an awesome book.

My favorite, The Authors Note, was a fitting conclusion. This was just as entertaining as the book itself. I loved hearing from each of the authors with their thoughts and the tweaking necessary for all the pieces to fit nicely here.

While I wasn't exactly sure what to expected with A Song of War, I got much more than anticipated and another book to add to my 'best of 2016'. Hats off to this great team, while written by 7 different individuals with 7 different writing styles this book flowed together perfectly, the transition from Songs seemed effortless. I loved this book, it was a pleasure to read.

Thank you to Amy at HFVBT for the invite to be part of this tour and to Stephanie Thornton for a digital copy of A Song of Fire.
Profile Image for David Baird.
464 reviews18 followers
October 18, 2016
After reading A Year of Ravens I just knew there would be more to come from those talented authors and I couldn’t be happier that this book would focus around Troy.

Truth be told I know the story..ish and also what Hollywood has told so was very eager to get to grips with this one

First of I must commend the authors on this one. You can clearly tell after working on previous projects that they work together well. It was surprising how easily each of the individual sections of the story fitted together so well. Kate Quinn has clearly worked her magic at the editing stage along with the other authors to make this work as well as it does

There are 7 individual sections to the novel each told by one of the authors and each focusing on different characters. This unique way of storytelling had me gripped and had the strange effect on me that my opinion of characters changed throughout the book as the authors would explore the motivations of such characters as Agamemnon who i came to see in a completely different light

From my limited knowledge of the characters I always felt the tale of Paris and Helen was a love story.. how wrong was i..i loved having my eyes opened to how political things would have been at the time and that not every marriage would come about because of love

This tale is so much more than I ever imagined.. there are so many people involved in the downfall of Troy I just didn’t know about. Andromache and Cassandra were two I really enjoyed reading about

A couple bits of the story stood out for me, firstly the duel between Hector and Achilles. The chariot sequence was so brilliantly written that I couldn’t help being excited reading it. The second thing that really stood out was Achilles.. his downfall.. you really get to see him fall apart as the war continues

Looking back at my notes on this book the first thing a highlighted was a character named Hellenus.. how I loved him and how well he developed throughout the tale. Hellenus appears in more than one section of the tale but it was great to see even when another author took control it still felt like the same person when Hellenus could have easily lost his charm if another author portrayed him differently

The other two characters I just have to mention are Philoctetes and Odysseus, I really felt that were portrayed perfectly

You might have guessed but overall the character development in this book is amazing, I think this is because the authors each took their own section of the story and characters within it to tell the tale. This gave them the time to really help the reader get to know the character and they did it so well you weren’t overwhelmed with information

I can’t recommend books like this enough, it gives you not only a great story but also insight into authors you might never have heard of. While reading the author notes I was surprised to find out Libbie Hawker wasn’t as familiar with the history as the other authors, I must say she did a brilliant job

This was once again a wonderfully written and edited book by a selection of very talented and versatile authors. Each has a real talent for hooking the reader. If like me you’re looking to learn more but don’t fancy tackling The Iliad & The Odyssey first then this is the book for you.. you’ll love it and you’ll be left with a thirst for more.
Profile Image for Robin.
314 reviews13 followers
November 30, 2016
Historical Readings & Reviews

This is probably the most realistic portrayal of Paris and Helen I've seen yet. The trouble I always had with the Trojan War epic is the idea that two protagonists would make such a spectacularly selfish and reckless decision which they likely knew would result in war. It's normally portrayed as this utterly romantic idea, that they were just so in love, they had no choice. But I've always thought it was selfish and irresponsible, and that's finally how the H Team decided to portray it too. Paris is doing the bidding of his war mongering father by deliberately sparking war, while Helen is seeking the freedom and influence that Trojans would give her, both without regard to the innocent lives it will take. So I really appreciated the more realistic approach in moving away from Paris and Helen as the romantic protagonists and instead focusing on other, more likable characters.

I felt like this novel, in comparison to the previous ones by the H Team, was more at the heart of the major players in the event. The previous stories were frequently told from the points of view of a lot of nameless fictional characters, while this one was told from the points of view of characters like Helenus, Cassandra, Andromache, Agamemnon, etc. That is not a criticism of either this novel or the previous ones, just an observation. Like the previous novels though, this one also tells both side of the story, and we get to see protagonists and antagonists on both sides of the war.

Although the authors involved in the H Team projects vary by the book, the quality of writing never does. This is once again a very well written and well put together story of an epic tragedy in history/legend.
Profile Image for Elysium.
389 reviews53 followers
February 10, 2017
I haven’t read many books about Troy so this was a great read. While I absolutely loved this, it was also very hard to read and sometimes I didn’t even want to pick it up. Sometimes it just sucks to know the history! I would just go; Noo, he’s going to die! I don’t want that to happen!

I really liked to read about Cassandra. At times she appears to be a mad-woman and other times she seems to be the only voice of reason. It was frustrating so see how she tried to warn her people what would happen and how they just ignored her.

I liked how Helen was portrayed in a more active role as a schemer. She wasn’t just stolen from Sparta but decided to leaves on her own accord.

Another awesome collaboration by the authors. Christian Cameron was the only new author for me and I was little scared how he would do Hector’s death. I thought it was a great idea to see it through the eyes of Briseis so it was a bit less painful. I thought the chapters worked well together.
Profile Image for Monica Hills.
850 reviews23 followers
November 27, 2016
This is an extremely excellent novel on the Trojan War. This novel is composed of different songs or chapters. Basically different authors write about specific characters and their involvement in the Trojan War. All of these authors did an amazing job. Even though different authors wrote different parts it all flowed together seamlessly. I loved every single character that I read about. I found myself wishing for different outcomes based on who I was reading about even though I ultimately knew how the Trojan War ended. I also loved the fact that the authors gave background information on their part of the story at the end of the novel. This is a must read!!!!
Profile Image for Heather C.
492 reviews80 followers
December 8, 2016
When I heard that the H Team was going to be coming out with a collection about the Trojan War as best known from The Illiad, I was ecstatic. The first two collections that they released, A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii and A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica's Rebellion, were top reads for me in their respective years – so I knew this one would be good. Secondly, while I haven’t read The Illiad, I LOVE The Odyssey and looked forward to reading more related to this storyline. And finally, I loved seeing that Stephanie Thornton was taking part this time as I have enjoyed all of her novels set in the ancient world.

First I want to talk a little about each story before discussing the collection as a whole.

The Apple by Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn had potentially one of the most difficult sections of this greater story arc; not only does her story set the scene and tone for the rest of the book, but there also isn’t a lot of action here as the whole thing is just beginning. For the most part, I think she did an admirable job. We meet the majority of the characters that will be fleshed out later in the book, particularly the significant sons of Priam, King of Troy. I quickly disliked Paris and found Hector to be among my favorite characters throughout. There was a complete story arc present here and there was a pretty great confrontation scene toward the end. I appreciated the dual narrators of Andromache and Hellenus because they gave us both the male and female insight into the wedding activities of Odysseus and Penelope and all of the behind the scenes drama that ensued. This story also takes place in the Achaean lands and we are introduced to the life in Sparta, which contrasts starkly with the life in Troy.

The Prophecy by Stephanie Thornton

Stephanie Thornton brings us into the world of Troy, however from a somewhat limited perspective of Cassandra. Seeing as she has visions of the future, you might wonder why I say she is limited – this is due to the fact that no one listens to her and she leads a very lonely existence within the palace at Troy. Cassandra is often viewed as a mad-woman, but her presentation here really makes you question whether she is mad or the world around her is. Cassandra is dark and tormented and such a different character than the majority that we will see in this book. This chapter, even more than the first, made me really dislike Helen; she is not some woman who just sits around and lets things happen to her, she causes havoc on her own.

The Sacrifice by Russell Whitfield

Russell Whitfield bounces the reader back to the Achaean camp and presents us with an Agamemnon that I felt a little sorry for. As we are seeing his life and this war through his own eyes it helps to humanize him a little bit as he makes sense of what he is doing. One of the things that helped me like him a little bit was how he was presented against Achilles. The two of them are very different people, present themselves in different ways, and approach war from entirely opposing perspectives. Whitfield makes us feel with Agamemnon for all the stress of being the high king in a war full of heroes. While I didn’t like him, I understood him better.

The Duel by Christian Cameron

This was a section of the story that made me quite sad as it is the duel between Achilles and Hector. This is so full of passion and action. I disliked Achilles, he is so full of pride, but he has been hurt to the core during this war too. On the other hand, I loved Hector; he was even-keeled, disliked Helen and Paris for bringing all this destruction with them, but is a powerful warrior. The battle between these two iconic men of their respective sides was a scene I couldn’t tear my eyes from. Despite this being a vastly masculine story element, it is seen from the eyes of a female perspective of Briseis – someone who was once a Trojan but has come to love Achilles, which gives her an interesting perspective. A powerful, powerful story.

The Bow by Libbie Hawker

This is another scene told from a dual perspective spanning the two camps: Penthesilea of the Amazons and Philoctetes. Philoctetes was another one of the characters that I loved in this novel, while Penthesilea was one that I wasn’t a huge fan of. With Penthesilea I didn’t feel like I really knew much about her at all. She wasn’t a character that I had been introduced to previously in this book and she just shows up full of grief. I think I would have liked to have known more about what her life was like prior to arriving at Troy; we see glimpses of it, but I felt a little cheated in getting to know her, unlike the other characters. I didn’t care about the choices she made or what would happen to her, but her battle with Achilles was powerful and a game changer for his character. Speaking of Achilles, Philoctetes influenced him in a different way and vice versa. He was a friend and fellow hero, and he loved Achilles even when it didn’t appear to have been reciprocated. He was extremely refreshing, especially contrasting with Penthesilea who I did not enjoy as much.

The Horse by Vicky Alvear Shecter

I can’t even begin to describe how much I loved the character of Odysseus as written here by Vicky Alvear Shecter! He showed up in several of the chapters in just small doses and I enjoyed each of those moments for the wit of his character and his wiles in the face of the other heroes who were all about direct battle. In his own chapter I was treated to even more of the fun of this man. His manner of speech was oftentimes hilarious and I loved his interactions with Diomedes. Based on her writing of this character I would LOVE to see her take on an interpretation of The Odyssey as I think I would really enjoy her presentation of him taking on all of his epic struggles to get home. In this story, Odysseus brings us closer to the ultimate fall of Troy, and while I found myself identifying with the Trojans more, I couldn’t help but cheer every time Odysseus succeeded where many expected him to fail. Best story of the collection in my opinion, hands down.

The Fall by S.J.A. Turney

As with the opener, Turney has one of the difficult sections in that everything needs to be tied together, and I think that was accomplished here. Aeneas is one of the last of the Trojans and he has been in and out of chapters since the first one so I was happy to have a face closing it out that I knew and actually liked. I think it had to be a truly likable character here because you needed to feel the pain of the fall of Troy. Aeneas exemplifies that not only in what he loses but also because he tries so hard to keep the inevitable from happening, even when he knows it will happen anyway. It leaves the reader with some hope, a slight positive note in a serious chapter. Many of the characters we have gotten to know throughout the novel (those still alive anyway) make some recurrences here and everything felt in place.


Most of these stories worked well and I loved seeing some fan favorites but also some characters that were new to me as well; it helped keep a very old story new and fresh. I had always identified with the Greeks in retellings of this story, but here I found myself favoring the Trojans – it’s amazing what a gifted writer can do with your emotions! I loved digging into some of the deeper history around this time too, much more than you get from Homer and I thought that leaning Troy more toward the way of the Near East was more realistic than toward the Greeks and it helped to create a little line of friction between the two sides. As I stated before, Odysseus in the hands of Shecter blew me away and I find it hard to believe that she struggled to write him as he appears flawless.

This book was received in exchange for an honest review and was previously posted at my blog, The Maiden's Court.
Profile Image for Kate Eminhizer .
433 reviews
November 15, 2016
Normally I don't enjoy compilations. I feel that most writing styles don't marry well into one volume. The H Team is one of the exceptions. Not only did they tackle one of the most recognizable stories from antiquity, but they did so with magnificence! Each writer is able to really shine in their individual chapters with keeping the characters perfectly entwined throughout. I highly enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Iset.
665 reviews475 followers
November 16, 2018
I’ll say one thing – this book certainly kept me off-balance. I went into it knowing that it was a collection of short stories by different authors, so I expected a variety of visions. Imagine my surprise when, having finished Kate Quinn’s first story, I found that Stephanie Thornton’s second story was consistent with the events and characters established in the first – and not only that, but I must say that Thornton writes almost exactly like Quinn. If you hadn’t told me that there were two different authors, I wouldn’t have known. Okay, so it’s less a collection of novellas than a unified collaborative story by several different authors. But then I get into the third story, Russ Whitfield’s Agamemnon, and… oh… wait, we’ve just done a huge jump in time… so it is more like a disjointed collection of novellas? I think? In some respects, the book is like a novella collection because it picks out flashpoints in the story and does not form a coherent chronological whole, but in other respects it is like a single co-authored novel, because the key plot points and characters have been agreed upon by all the authors involved.

I enjoyed certain stories better than others, naturally. Kate Quinn and Russ Whitfield were my two favourite authors, Quinn for her wonderfully smooth and engaging writing style, Whitfield for his unusual take on Agamemnon. I least enjoyed Christian Cameron’s section; I didn’t feel engaged, and to be honest I found the tale rather forgettable. I know that may seem odd since the source material he works with is some of the most engaging – Briseis, Patroclus, Achilles, and the duels – but torpid writing can make even the most exciting events soporific. The other writers fell somewhere in between. It’s difficult to review a book with so many different authors and writing styles, but I did have a few random thoughts on character choices.

I’d like to see a rational Kassandra for once, rather than one wild and beset by nightmares, where her prophetic visions are not a curse but a gift from Apollo, and the failure of others to believe her is no punishment, but a testament to her wisdom over the general foolishness of people. I didn’t get that here – at least, not entirely. The authors’ notes clearly state that their Kassandra was meant to be a mix of both rational and mad, and that’s certainly what I read in the text.

I was both relieved and disappointed by Agamemnon. Honestly, I am sick and tired of all the hate Agamemnon’s character gets and the many, many, many portrayals of him as a villain. Villains are boring. They’re one-note. They don’t feel like real human beings. Agamemnon often gets portrayed as a greedy bully with no redeeming features whatsoever – but that kind of portrayal has never made sense to me. I don’t buy that kind of character as the high king of Mycenae, whom so many others would follow to war. Maybe I’m swayed by the first ever book I read about these characters as a child – Henry Treece’s Electra. In Treece’s book, Agamemnon is a deeply flawed hero. His part in Iphigeneia’s death is reprehensible, but he’s also an extremely skilled warrior and commander, who looks the part standing tall in shining armour, inspires loyalty in his troops, adores his children, and is pushed into war initially because the kingdom is crumbling under Troy’s economic stranglehold. I find that to be a far more plausible vision than the many villainous Agamemnon’s out there, and I find it interesting that so few bother to ask what kind of abominable gods would demand human sacrifice in the first place. Whitfield’s Agamemnon isn’t the complex mix of admirable and reprehensible that Treece’s Agamemnon is – but he’s a step above the dull villain stereotype, and actually evokes sympathy and pity from the reader. I approve of this more developed portrayal, although it doesn’t go far enough for my tastes.

One final random thought – the authors bring modern profanity into the text quite a lot and it just seemed jarring to me. I have no objection to the profanity in principle, but some of the turns of phrase are very modern and it distracted me from the ancient setting. Not a fan.

Overall, the book is more good than bad – hence the just above average rating – but it’s patchy due to all the different authors, and includes elements that just didn’t work well.

6 out of 10
Profile Image for Meg - A Bookish Affair.
2,445 reviews192 followers
November 6, 2016
4.5 stars. "A Song of War" is a new book by the H team, authors of "A Day of Fire" and "A Year of Ravens." As with the other books, this book features a slightly different set of authors, all well qualified to take readers on a journey to the past. This book focuses on Troy. The ancient world is still a subject that is really new for me as far as reading topics go. The Trojan War is one of those subjects where I just haven't read a whole lot about. I know the basics: the gorgeous Helen of Troy, the horse, and how long it took for Troy to finally fall. I knew I was in good hands with these authors to shed a little more light on things for me.

First off, I really liked how this book was able to focus on so many different facets of the war. You have all of the big personalities. You have the hubris of so many of the characters playing into getting them into trouble (isn't that always the way thought?). You have the difference in opinion as to where things should go in the future. You have the fighting itself. There is a lot to like by different people in this book. Yeah, there is battles but I was impressed with how these authors were able to give a human face to what the war actually meant and how it impacted so many people and the futures of so many different groups.

Characters are huge with this group. The ancient world did seem to have a male-driven focus but what was so surprising to me in this book is that the females definitely drive the action as well. In the very first story of the book, we meet Helen, the face that launched a thousand ships. She basically comes to Troy willingly, everyone else be damned. Again, my knowledge of the Trojan War is lacking but it always seemed to me like Helen was taken against her will so I loved the spin of her just kind of pooh, poohing her husband and his family and not caring that she may have just started a war. I just wanted to shake her and ask her if she knew how much trouble she was going to cause! Her cavalier attitude definitely made her a character that I loved to hate.

Although there are some great male characters in the book, they were much more familiar to me than the women and I loved getting insight into the women of the time. Their roles usually could not be as forward as the men but they are able to yield their power in some really great ways throughout the book as it goes on that made for a really good read. There is Cassandra, who was the twin of Hellenus. She was a priestess that her family pretty much seemed ashamed of so they lock her away. She is fascinating because the reader is forced to confront whether or not she is mad or if she may be the smartest of the bunch. She is fascinating to me. I really enjoyed reading the sections of the book where she appeared. There is Penthislea, an Amazon warrior. After meeting her in the first part of the book, I was thrilled that she got her own section. I can't recall reading any historical fiction about the Amazon warriors so I loved learning a little more about them throughout the book.

Now as much as I loved the characters, I loved that the book was driven by action as well. This book is incredibly fast past and a great ride. The personalities and the writing styles are different from writer to writer and story to story and this really led to the book feeling like it was very well-rounded. I love how this group of authors have been able to tackle subjects that often still seem like they are off the beaten path for historical fiction! This is a great ride!
Profile Image for Stephanie.
1,305 reviews27 followers
October 22, 2016
The Trojan Wars are steeped history through myth, legend and epic tales. A Song of War brings together seven stories from throughout the war by seven different authors. Each story, or song, took me chronologically through the War, which made the songs flow together melodically. I enjoyed the changing perspectives, bringing forth different views from different sides. I especially liked that some of these characters were people that history has swept to the background. While the stories of Helen, Menelaus, Achilles, Paris, Hector and Odysseus were exciting and action packed, it was the stories of Cassandra, Briseis and Penthesilea that were the most insightful, heartfelt and brought true passion from all sides.

I truly enjoyed this anthology format for reading. Each author showed their own voice through their characters, yet there was still one full story pulled together through each verse. I was impressed with how each story was able to pull out a different emotion: greed, sacrifice, torment, tragedy, vengeance, thoughtfulness and hope. I think this is a great example of anthology style of writing, I enjoyed the focus not being on one character or point of view, but the experience as a whole. I can’t wait to read more from this historical fiction team.

This book was provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.
Profile Image for Ruth Chatlien.
Author 5 books107 followers
December 30, 2016
A wonderful reselling of the Trojan War from the varying perspectives of several major characters.
6 reviews
August 10, 2022
"Songs of war" is one of the best books which shows the trojan war. It describes the storys of multiple characters, ones really unknown like Philoctetes, Briseis, Chryseis or the amazon Penthesilea, not only Achilles or Hector's ones. You discover the fates of lesser men and women, and how they changed, each in his own way, the course of the troyan war. And what is so different from the majority of creations which present this major ancient event is the lack of the gods influence and the human character of the mighty heroes. Agamemnon is a drunkard and is struggling with his daughter's loss, Achilles is depressed and hates his great destiny, Paris is a clown and a coward and the great Helen of Sparta, later of Troy, is a maipulative, spitefull and full of hubris woman, who finds joy in the war she created, and so it's going with the others.
The lack of divine influence is like a breath of fresh air, which makes this well-known story more credible. The men of Achaea and Troy are fighting for treasure and glory, not for Helen, which was just the surface pretext of the conflict. In fact, thers is no epic love story between Helen and Paris, just a scheme of the Troy's king , Priam, to make the sea-wolfes of Achaea enter in a war with the mighty Troy, and after the achaeans' defeat, of which Priam was so sure, they would come to pay a great deal of tribute to his city. There is no fight between the godesses, no gods who keep parts and fight the mortals, no signs from the inhabitants of mount Olympus, just the tales of warriors and soldiers, which explain their defeats and stupid actions.
In my opinion, this book is one of the few who shows the closest probability of how the ancient war really was and this is why it should be more known. The people would start to believe more în the existence of the fabulous city which ruins where discovered not so long ago.
Profile Image for Patty.
1,191 reviews32 followers
November 11, 2016
I was so excited when I learned that these authors were teaming up for another go at a collaborative book. The first one, A Year of Ravens was so very good. What is so wonderful is that the authors don’t try to conform to a set manner of writing to tell the tale – they maintain their own visions and styles for each of their section of the story. It’s really a short story collection ( and you all know how I feel about short stories by now. If you don’t – I despise them. I feel like they are being written somewhere above my head. ) but each individual chapter for lack of a better word advances the overall narrative.

If you don’t know the story of Troy I’m not going to explain it to you here but I am sure you have at least heard of the Trojan Horse. Google it and then if you want to know more read The Illiad. It is a wonderful book. But back to A Song of War. What is so delightful about the way it is written is that even though it is telling one complete story you can easily stop after one section for each is its own tale. So you don’t feel that overweening pressure you sometimes get when reading a full on thriller – and the story of the Trojan War is a thriller. At least for those of us that love ancient history. Heck – it’s a great story for modern times too.

Profile Image for Allison Thurman.
596 reviews3 followers
January 15, 2017
Hitting it out of the park ONCE AGAIN!

Full disclosure: I knew only the bare bones basics of the Trojan War: Paris kidnaps Helen and they try and take her back by smuggling in troops in a big wooden horse. As such I didn't start reading with preconceptions about any of the players or knowing who lives or who dies.

I like that the authors chose to change the parts of the story that assume godly interference. All decisions are human ones. This takes the story out of the Heroic(TM) legend and brings it down to human scale.

All of the characters are flawed, and I LOVE this - the Historical Fiction Writer's Co-op authors consistently create characters you want to slap while still cheering for them. A war with two sides becomes complex as individual motives and priorities clash, until the ensemble cast despairs of the war for all the reasons you can think of.

Some survive, some do not. The authors interpret and play with the historical sources to make heroic figures hateful, shine the spotlight on sidelined figures, and sympathize with the villains of the piece. In the end each author notes why they made the decisions they did, and as a writer I enjoyed that peek into the artistic process.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Claire Holland.
16 reviews1 follower
November 7, 2016
If you love Ancient Troy this is the book for you!!

I enjoyed meeting old heroes with a fresh perspective especially Russell Whitfield's Agamemnon who I actually felt sympathy for, this has never been the case with me before with the Argive high king. Normally I hate his guts so that was a unlooked for surprise so thanks Russell!! Kate Quinn is the queen of writing and still wields her crown! I loved this collaboration of all the authors perception the downfall of Troy you will hate yourself if you don't read A Song Of War!! Defo worth five stars in my opinion!!
Profile Image for Wende.
Author 6 books64 followers
November 12, 2016
The authors in this fabulous anthology took an old story we all know and love and somehow managed to breathe new life into in, bringing the characters to life in new, fresh, and very unexpected ways. When I first sat down with this book, I thought I'd read one story at a time, but each was so good I had trouble putting the book down. I felt like I was seeing the familiar story again through many different eyes, and it was fascinating. Great work to all the authors.

I was given an ARC of this book for a fair and honest review.
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